Residents affect zoning policy

Approvals overturned, citizen advisory committee begins meeting

The impact of private citizens on zoning policy is being felt in Union City this year. Recently, three variances approved in 2006 were overturned after a resident appealed the decisions. And just months after a property owner started a controversy over the residency of a zoning board member, the city put out a call to residents to participate in a zoning advisory committee.
So what’s going on with zoning in Union City these days?

Three approvals overturned last month

Last month, a Superior Court judge overturned three city approvals for the construction of seven-story buildings in areas that were zoned for buildings with a maximum height of three and a half stories.
The affected projects include a 30-unit building at 414-416 13th St. and two 15-unit buildings at 405-07 14th St. and 410-12 13th St.
Although construction has not yet begun at 410 12th St., both 414-416 13th St. and 405-07 14th St. were partially constructed when the approvals were reversed.


“Anyone who seems resistant to any moves by current boards or agencies is certainly encouraged to join the committee and become part of the process.” – Mark Albiez

The decisions came after Union City resident Larry Price, who has been challenging many local development project approvals, appealed the decisions made by the Union City Zoning Board of Adjustment granting variances for height, unit density, number of parking spaces, and lot coverage, amongst other things.
According to published reports, the zoning board originally approved the projects in 2006, and though Price appealed the decision, the Law Division of state Superior Court upheld it.
Price appealed again to the court’s Appellate Division and the decision was reversed in 2008 on the basis that seven-story buildings are considered “high rises,” which are banned in that particular area.
But just a few months later, the developers of the projects reapplied to the zoning board and plans for the same exact buildings were approved again.
According to the reports, the development companies have 45 days to appeal the most recent decision and if they do not, the current construction will have to be demolished.

Zoning advisory committee has begun meeting

In April, Union City officials solicited applications from residents interested in joining a newly created Zoning Committee that would advise the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
According to Union City spokesman Mark Albiez, the new committee finally began meeting this fall and has had two meetings thus far. Another meeting was scheduled for Oct. 7 as of press time.
Albiez said there are approximately 15 members on the committee and they will be meeting about every two weeks.
Brian Chewcaskie, counsel to the city, and Paul Grygiel, a city planner, also sit in on the meetings on behalf of city officials.
Chewcaskie said that over the past two meetings the committee has discussed zoning districts and what should be permitted in certain areas.
According to Chewcaskie the primary purpose of the committee is to make suggestions on a new proposed zoning ordinance which had previously been in the works for several months but is currently on hold until input from the committee is complete.
After that work is done, the committee will most likely cease meeting.
While the function of the committee is strictly advisory, Chewcaskie anticipates that many of the suggestions made by the committee will be adopted into the final version of the ordinance.
“We’ve found some people on the committee have made some very good suggestions,” he said. “I’ve found the past two meetings to be very productive.”

Still open to input from all

Chewcaskie said that the current membership of the committee is very diverse, spanning from young to old and from architects to small business owners.
And according to Albiez, though the creation of the committee is complete, insight from any residents who want their voice heard is still welcome.
“The purpose of the zoning committee is to open [the] process up to everyone in the city,” said Albiez. “Anyone who seems resistant to any moves by current boards or agencies is certainly encouraged to join the committee and become part of the process.”
Albiez added that, “it’s a shame that people choose not to participate but then choose to gripe about a circumstance after they’ve been invited to be part of shaping the city and become engaged in an important process such as the zoning committee.”
One of those “resistant” residents, Price, is not one of the 15 members on the committee. Price told The Reporter earlier this year that he did not intend to submit an application because it may be a conflict of interest due to his involvement in court cases about zoning decisions.
For more information about the zoning advisory board or to find out when the next meeting will be, call (201) 348-5755.
Lana Rose Diaz can be reached at

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